I have a general practice, specializing in plaintiff’s employment law, workers’ compensation, personal injury, family law and general civil litigation.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
Beginning as a new associate in a reputable firm, you’re tasked with cases and objectives that were not personally cultivated. This creates several opportunities to analyze the development and strategy of a case. It also gives a new lawyer experience in managing client expectations, advocating legal positions from a professional (versus personal) vantage point and establishing a reputation with the court and fellow attorneys. In my current practice, I am developing my own caseload, sharpening my litigation skills and continuing to expand my knowledge base. I also have a great mentor for how to practice at a high level, maintain one’s passion and integrity and enjoy practicing law.
As for the next few years, I expect to remain in the Sauk Valley practicing in a smaller market. This puts a premium on developing oneself as an entity in which people repose confidence and trust. For me, at this point in my career, gaining exposure, being prepared and maintaining integrity are the way I intend to get where I want to be.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to be passionate. Unless you are lucky enough to hit your first $1,000,000 policy limits case right off the bat, you are going to need some passion to get through the junior associate or early solo years.
What is the one technological device you could not function without daily?
Not so much as a device, but Microsoft Office 365 & SharePoint are key to integrating my practice and family life. Office 365 & SharePoint are Microsoft’s subscription cloud service that allows access from home without the overhead of a server and the technological wrangling to work from home off of that server. I am not being compensated by Microsoft for the plug.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
I routinely benefit from civility and professionalism in a smaller market. Most or all of the local attorneys know one another and have engaged outside of work in one way or another. This goes a long way in benefiting our clients. At the end of the day, two signatures are needed on a settlement or agreed order. We all know which elements of a case are stronger than others, what portions are matters of discretion and where our clients have exposure to liability or loss. Counsels for each party have to have a certain amount of trust and confidence in one another to forge an agreement that properly benefits their clients and manages those risks. Typically, it will be more costly for a client’s case to go to a contested, exhaustive hearing or trial, and having representatives that can communicate can go a long way in discovering whether a potential for settlement exists. Without civility and professionalism a disagreement may devolve into insults or a shouting match; the norms of decorum are helpful in maintaining the awareness and levelheadedness that so frequently benefit our clients.
Is it difficult to balance time for family, especially your young son, with the demands of your job?
I am lucky to have a wonderful wife that supports my practice and puts a premium on family time; I have a father who was present, instructive and exemplary when I was younger. I work at a firm that has toys in the lobby for kids, pictures of our families around the office and is constantly bustling with family activity—either ours or our clients’.
I make it a priority to be a dad, and sometimes I don’t spend enough time with [my son] before he goes to bed, but the flexibility of my job allows me to spend a significant amount of quality time with him. My wife is also a professional and stepping in to give her time to run errands or do as she pleases is a great opportunity for father/son time.
What do you do for fun?
We are renovating an 1876 Italianate home right now, so I sit and behold the monumental amount of work to be done on a regular basis. I also like to cook, enjoy the outdoors, and spend time with family
William H.T. Lee is an attorney with the Law Office of Ludens Potter Melten Mahaffey.